How to lay out your Exegesis Paper

Jan A. Sigvartsen PhD

Like many scholarly papers, an Exegesis paper has a standard set of sections that are commonly used.  This set of sections provides a benchmark for scholarship and professionalism in academic Biblical Studies research. 
Within these sections are sub-sections that provide the reader with background research of your topic, the problems or shortcomings in this research that you wish to address, the methodology you used, delimitations, and the Exegesis itself. 
Listed below are the sections you will need to include in your Exegesis paper along with some suggested sub-sections which will cover all the relevant items you gathered in your preparation research. 

1. Title Page

Select a title that clearly and concisely describes the content of your paper and catches a reader's interest. Be very careful to apply style to the title page as any mistakes here will create a bad impression. (See the section below entitled Style and follow the appropriate links for instructions on how to lay out a title page. Also, see the sample papers on our Sample Papers page.)

2. Table of Contents

A very important item that gives an overview of the sections and subsections you will be using.

3. Introduction

Your introduction, as a general rule, should be no more than 10% of your entire paper. Your introduction must contain:

  1. Background Statement - Open your paper with a brief discussion relating to your passage. Include what research has been done on it before, the issues that arose from that research, clashes in opinions/findings of other academics, and why they disagreed (i.e. history of interpretation).

  2. Statement of the Problem - This is the reason you want to write a paper on this specific passage. It might be that nobody has dealt with this verse before, or you are unhappy with the way other scholars have approached this verse or you have seen a problem with this verse, and you want to spend some time unraveling it. For whatever reason, state it specifically and plainly in one to two sentences. 

  3. Purpose of the Study – ask significant questions of what you hope to achieve by undertaking this research (like providing an interpretation of a verse that has not been written about, addressing a shortcoming in current research, etc.). 

  4. Methodology – specify how the study will be conducted to obtain the final results. 

  5. Delimitation of the Study - Some texts have many aspects or issues that need to be investigated. Only in a doctoral dissertation will you have room to deal with them all (even then, you may still have to limit your study). In a term paper, you will only have room to address one, or maybe, two of these issues. Define what specific issue or aspect of the text you will be investigating in your paper.

4. Main Body

  1. This section should be approximately 80% of your paper. As you can see, these sections match the preparation research you undertook previously. Everything you include in this section of the paper should directly address your problem statement. If it doesn't, don't put it in your paper. You are not required to put everything you uncovered in your preparation research into your paper - only information that helps the reader see how you arrived at your conclusions regarding the text.

  2. Hebrew Text and English Translation - See the papers on the "Sample" page above for proper layout. You only need one English translation - preferably your own.

  3. Historical Context – discuss aspects of the authorship, main persons, events, places, and dates.

  4. Literary Context – define the immediate context and larger context of the text.

  5. Literary Genre - identify the genre of the text (narrative, poetry, prophecy, law, genealogy, parable, prayer, dream, hymn, song, dialogue, speech, etc.).

  6. Literary Structure – note the literary features (sentences, patterns, repetitions, parallels, chiasms, inclusio) and outline the structure.

  7. Grammatical Study – do mini-word studies of the most important key terms and recognize unique vocabulary, syntax, play words, allusions, rhythm, accents, rhetoric, etc.

  8. Intertextuality – identify how the chosen text is used in the rest of the Old Testament and in the New Testament.

  9. Theology and Message (Include this only if it is required by your program.) Identify the main ideas and issues raised and solved by the text and locate the relevancy and application of the text. 

5. Summary and Conclusion

This section needs to match the introduction. Provide a summary of the main findings of the study and give clear answers to the Statement of the Problem (a unique contribution may be mentioned).

6. Bibliography

Provide data relating to ALL the books and articles used in your research, not just those you cited in your paper. You should also include resources used from the internet or other electronic resources. Be very careful to use your selected style accurately.

Using Academic Style

Jan A. Sigvartsen PhD

When typing/desktop publishing your research paper, it is very important to meticulously use a formal academic style.  My students can use SBL (Society of Biblical Literature), Turabian style, or Andrews University Standards for Written Work.  If you are an Old Testament or New Testament major, SBL (Society of Biblical Literature) is the standard for written work.

We have these styles, in order to provide a professional, comparable standard for scholarly biblical research and they are required by universities and scholarly journal submissions. If you do wish to publish your paper, contact the publisher or check their website for their required style for submission as many have different requirements.  Follow their requirements to give your submission the best chance of being published.  

Academic papers submitted that use a style, will receive a much better grade than one that doesn't. Below are useful links to web pages that briefly outline style requirements.  While these links are useful, for full requirements of a style, see the current publication of that style's handbook.  

Society of Biblical Literature - SBL Style

Turabian Style (or Chicago Style)

APA Style (American Psychological Association Style)

Andrews University Standards of Written Work (for my students only)